2014-02-26   facebook twitter rss

Why We Need Bees

Koppert Biological Systems has entered into a partnership with Utrecht University and is taking an active role in the summer school course entitled 'Why we need bees'.

The focus of the course is the worldwide ecological and economic importance of bees. What is the impact of the present decline of bees on pollination? Aspects of bee biology like reproduction, communication and foraging are addressed.


We deal with the diversity of bees and bee faunas in different habitats. Students will learn about flower biology and study pollen grains through the microscope. Practical demonstrations about form and function in the Honeybee and field excursions are important components of the course. The cultural significance of bees in traditional systems of beekeeping is analyzed together with projects of beekeeping as a tool for development.

This course is on bees and pollination, particularly on behaviour and applied ecology. Bees occur worldwide, forming a group of about 20,000 species. What are the characteristics of this group when we focus on form and function? We will study the evolutionary origin of bees and their basic relation with flowering plants. The diversity of the bees will be studied concentrating on species living in colonies. Bees form an insect group with distinct behavioural features. Complicated mechanisms of communication, e.g. for food collection, have remarkable parallels in different “social” species where similar problems are solved in different ways.

After the evolutionary background of the interdependence of bees and plants we will study topics on the ecological and economic impact of pollination by bees. Case studies will deal with pollination of wild flora and field- and fruit crops, including commercial pollination in greenhouses where Bumblebees are used to pollinate tomatoes etc.

Beekeeping as a development tool will be introduced as a case study. Different beekeeping projects for rural development can be analyzed and reference will be made to traditional systems of beekeeping and the use of bee products worldwide.

Honeybee biology is a major example and will be demonstrated further by an excursion to colonies kept by a beekeeper. Students can, being well protected and guided, inspect bee colonies inside the hives. The use of bee products like honey, wax and propolis will be lectured and practically demonstrated. The botanical origin of honey will be studied by an analysis of pollen grains.

The decline of bees will be discussed and be dealt with as a case study. Laboratory work includes a microscopic analysis of flower biology and pollen grains and a practical demonstration of form and function in the Honeybee. Field excursions are an important element of the course. Visits will be made to companies of seed production and pollinaton systems, a bee garden with special food plants, pollination beekeepers and (greenhouse) cultivations with Honeybees and Bumblebees. Small team-study-projects will be carried out including the preparation of a report for the concluding course seminar.


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